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Ethiopia frees 2,000 protesters as hundreds seek amnesty

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Demonstrators chant slogans while flashing the Oromo protest gesture during Irreecha, the thanksgiving festival of the Oromo people, in Bishoftu town, Oromia region, Ethiopia, October 2, 2016 (Reuters Photo)

By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

October 31, 2016 (ADDIS ABABA) – More than 2,000 individuals who were in jail following the recent violence have now been freed after taking the necessary corrective lessons, Ethiopia’s defence minister, Siraj Fegesa disclosed.

Siraj, who also sits at the Secretariat of the Command Post, said people believed to have been behind the recent unrest have peacefully surrendered to the government.

The suspects could be granted amnesty depending on the level of crimes they have committed.

Soon after the Horn of African country declared a state of emergency, its authorities called on suspects behind the deadly violence to turn themselves in.

The Ethiopian government imposed a six-month state of emergency on 8 October to restore order and contain violent protests in many parts of Oromiya and Amhara region.

While briefing journalists on Sunday the defence minster, said calm had been restored after the implementation of the state of emergency measure.

The suspects arrested, Fegesa said, had roles in the violence that hit the nation weeks back.

Some of the suspects, added the minister, had began surrendering to the Ethiopian government.

According to the official, at least 400 individuals peacefully surrendered to the command post before the 10-day amnesty ultimatum set the authorities.

He further said 1,500 illegal weapons were recovered from violence-prone areas after they collaborates with the public.

The suspects still in jail are taking corrective lessons in different training centers in Amhara and Oromia region.

Government officials and those at the state of emergency command post secretariat said the violence and unrest in parts of the nation have calmed down.

“Violence has been contained and we have created a situation where people can go about their lives without the fear of being attacked”, the communications minister, Getachew Reda, said.

He stressed that several investments and factories in the country were back to business and people are doing their normal activities safely.

Meanwhile, the State of Emergency Inquiry Board tasked to follow up and report the human rights handling by government while implementing the state of emergency decree has commenced its work.

The chairperson and members of the board said the inquiry board began exercising its authorization in accordance with the constitutional provision that sets out the specific duties and responsibilities.

Members of the board pledged to carry out their duties and responsibilities in a neutral way.

The declaration of a state of emergency imposed was in response to the series of protests in the two sensitive regions in which violence claimed hundreds of lives.

Directives of the decree among others, include authorising police to arrest individuals without a warrant, blocking internet access, prohibiting public gatherings and imposing curfews.

Diplomats in the country were not permitted to travel beyond 40 kilometres of the radius outside the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

Following the state of emergency decree, the United Nations urged government to ensure the protection of fundamental human rights when imposing the measure.

(ST)

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